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First road test 2018 Jaguar E-PACE

Have you ever wondered why the name PACE? Mr. Jaguar, aka Sir William Lyons, was known to use “Grace, Pace and Space” when describing his cars. Now you know. The F-PACE’s success set Jaguar designers and R&D departments on fire and it’s easy to see why. In only two short years, the midsize SUV became the brand’s best-seller, and by an incredible margin. It has, in no uncertain terms, turned the company around.

2018 Jaguar E-PACE

In no time flat, the TATA-owned British carmaker has introduced two more crossovers to a car-buying public that can’t get enough of them. The I-PACE, Jag’s first ever all-electric car will be an interesting discovery to say the least. This round, however, belongs to compact luxury CUV that is the E-PACE.

Its task will be to complement the F-PACE in capturing the attention of new and undecided buyers and getting them to come into JLR showrooms. Jaguar expects that 80% of E-PACE buyers will be new to the brand and I think it’ll work. This new small utility vehicle has everything going for it, namely price, performance, styling and technology.

Crawling or speeding

Perhaps what is most amazing about many of these latest tall-station-wagon-hatchback-family-sedans is that they are not bound by any true limitations. Despite its wee-ness, the F-PACE can cover paved ground at a serious clip and, in the next moment, climb a muddy rocky un-kept path without needing a pause, and without any extra input from the driver.

The tested R-Dynamic relies on Jag’ Active Driveline AWD setup. This system has torque-biasing capability that can shift practically all the torque front or rear. On the road, it’ll run solely as a FWD but then re-engage AWD. Some of the drive routes took us through villages at low speeds. In these circumstances, the E-PACE is in its most efficient mode. The moment the village is left behind, the go-pedal meets the firewall and we’re AWD again.

The system also features independent wet-plate clutches on each side of the rear axle to distribute torque where it’s needed. With this setup, the E-PACE claws at the corners, of which there were very many, and propels the car once on the way out. The only “bug” is that I need more initial feedback from the front axle and less on-center play in the steering. Otherwise it was easy to trust the E-PACE’s overall grip and AWD abilities.

The cottage trail is a real thing. And Jaguar people allowed us to find out first-hand how well the E-PACE could tackle it. Despite the road-biased Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires, the Jag made its way up and over wet rocks, and slippery mud. It crossed a river where water splashed over the bonnet and up to the windshield, and I and the CUV lived to tell about it.

All of this is possible thanks to the Ingenium family of engines. The E-PACE can be fitted to one of five boosted 4-cylinder 2,0-litre mills. Three of these are diesels but don’t expect to see one in North America. Our options lie between a 246-horsepower and 296-horsepower petrol version. All are mated to an AWD system (a simple permanent type with the 246-hp version) and to a 9-speed ZF automatic transmission.

I was fearful about the 9A from ZF as it has proven to be a disaster elsewhere. Mercifully, even when thoroughly throttled, it never skipped a beat. The 296-hp sign in as of 5,500 rpm, right after all 295 lb.-ft. of torque begin to taper off (1,500 to 4,500 rpm). This kind of power, along with the transmission, allows the 1,850 kg (4,070 lbs.) vehicle to reach 100 km/h in just over 6 seconds. This one is quick.

The light-hearted one

The Jaguar F-PACE is a serious luxury midsize crossover. Largely inspired by the XF and XJ cars, the F plays the role of flagship SUV. The E-PACE has a different role, and that is to make it seem more attainable.

Creative Director Exterior Design, Adam Hatton said that the E-Pace is the Jag cub. Think big paws and a smaller body. It’s cheeky, and playful. The front fascia is chamfered as the grille is up ahead and the body flows backwards away from it as it did in the E-Type. All Jags feature the same front-end graphic however all, save for the E-PACE, are serious. The Jag cub’s J-Blade front headlights and how they sit on the fascia looks too childish for me. Let’s remember however that I am an old man now and that younger and hipper consumers are likely to dig the Jag cub.

If you’ve ever dropped into an F-Type, you’ll feel right at home stepping into the E-PACE.

All the details are to scale, right down the 2-door’s steering wheel. The cabin’s quality is top drawer and depending on trim and options, features such as the InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with large user-friendly 10” touchscreen, optional 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and available 12.3” TFT driver display and Head-Up Display are available.

Space upfront is generous in every direction and it makes sense. Buyers are likely to be younger or empty nesters and as such, the rear bench will probably serve as extra storage on top of the large front compartments, configurable cup holders and door pockets. The trunk is voluminous at 577 litres with the bench in place.

Success will come swiftly

The F-PACE is a monster success story – it has accounted for 50% on average of annual sales in Canada over the last two years. The E-PACE will surely strike the same chord with car buyers. The $42,700 starting is spot on as is the 2018 Jaguar E-PACE as a whole.

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